Did God Create the World Last Tuesday? (the Problem with the “Appearance of Age” Approach)

I’m using the excellent book, Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (by Deborah Haarsma and Loren Haarsma) for my theology class (“God the Creator”) this semester. In their treatment of the “concordist” approaches to Genesis 1-2 (concordist approaches attempt to follow the “chronology” of the biblical creation accounts), they mention the “Appearance of Age” approach. In this view, God created the universe in six literal, 24 hour days; the present earth and universe are somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. Furthermore, God created everything with the appearance of very old age, such that scientists are not necessarily wrong in observing old age and long time scales–they just aren’t in on the full story (or joke, if you prefer). Some proponents say the reason why God created the universe with old age is aesthetics. An immense universe, grand canyons and big trees with lots of rings are more beautiful than a small universe, shallow ditches and short twigs. I suppose it’s the same principle which inspires some furniture makers to put etches (“scratches”) or dents on new tables and clothing designers to make jeans with holes

In any case, the approach is deeply problematic, as it turns science into a discipline of studying mere phenomena (“appearances”) and, fare more disturbingly, a creator God who is a at root, a deceiver and a charlatan. The Haarsmas put it this way:

This interpretation would mean that God embedded within the universe a host of evidence that indicates a long, richly detailed history that never happened. Sedimentary layers look as though they formed in a muddy sea bottom, except that the sea never existed. Igneous rock layers look as though they were formed from repeated volcanic outflows, but the volcano never erupted. Millions of plants and animals are found in the fossil record, but those organisms never actually lived. Would God have created the earth with evidence of a rich, complicated history that is completely false? We might as well ask, “Did God create the world last Tuesday?” God could have created  the earth last week, complete with history books on library shelves, decayed statues in museums, and false memories in our brains, but this seems dishonest.

I have to admit, it’s intriguing to imagine that God created the universe last Tuesday. However, if that were true, I wouldn’t quite know what to think of God.


About Kyle Roberts
  • KarlUdy

    It gets a little more problematic when you consider supernovae, which if the “appearance of age” theory held, would be events we can observe happening that never happened.

  • AHH

    The typical “creationist” rejoinder is to point to Adam, supposedly created fully “mature”, maybe even with a navel. But this doesn’t really work — what we have in nature is “appearance of history” rather than just appearance of age/maturity.
    The evidence for the age of the Earth is not like Adam being created mature; it is more like Adam being created with fillings in his teeth, a scar on his knee from a fall in his nonexistent childhood, and a high school yearbook with pictures of his nonexistent classmates.

    One can make similar points about genetic evidence for common ancestry, except there I know of no equivalent to the “appearance of age” argument. Our genes contain much evidence for an evolutionary history, which we can either accept or try and come up with some reason God would plant phony evidence.

    By the way, I commend you for using the Haarsmas’ book. As a Christian in science, it is my #1 recommendation as an introductory book, especially for college students beginning to think about these issues.

  • DOH

    Whether God did create the universe with a history (for KarlUdy this would include light in motion) or not is almost irrelevant. The point is, if He is truly God, He could have. It’s one of the advantages of being omnipotent. The why’s and were-fore’s are for a different conversation.

    When Jesus turned the water to wine, the finished wine was ‘aged’, indeed the finest wine ever tasted. The passage also says that in this action Jesus revealed his glory – He had just created and thus showed himself to be God incarnate. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%202:1-11&version=NIV

    Further, in those instances where individuals were healed by Jesus and others their limbs were restored ‘with history’. They did not require months of intensive physiotherapy – their limbs were restored complete.

    As St. Paul reasons, it is impossible for me to look at life in all its exquisite complexity and reason that it all happened without an originating cause, and omnipotent Creator. My faith simply cannot stretch that far.

    As someone quipped, If God had not created there would be nothing for scientists to discover.

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